Title: Saying It
Author: Annerb
Summary: This is not at all how Jack imagined being locked up in a storage closet with Carter would be like. (Season 9 'Off The Grid')
Rating/Warnings: PG, language
Categorization: Humor, Drama, Sam/Jack, Team
A/N: Number nine in the DC Series. Follows 'Pocket Full of Posies'.

Saying It

Sam steps out of the elevator on level 28 and runs directly into Daniel.

He smoothly sidesteps out of her way to avoid the brunt of the collision, one hand hovering protectively over his coffee cup. "Oh. Morning, Sam," he says like it's some great coincidence that he happens to be standing there.

She peers at him suspiciously, because it isn't quite like him to hang around the elevators waiting for her. Seeing as everyone else is still strolling about with the usual amount of morning lethargy, she assumes there is no emergency demanding her attention, nothing to explain why Daniel is haunting the elevators. They don't even have a mission today. In fact, other than a few routine briefings there is only one event of note taking place at the SGC today—the visit of certain high level brass.

Hence Sam's automatic suspicions about Daniel's presence.

"Good morning," she replies, sharpening the words slightly. A warning that she's on to him, thank you very much, bumbling archeologist routine or not.

If Daniel notices, he doesn't show it, just falls into step next to her as she heads for the briefing room. "So," he says, his voice overly casual—a sure sign of trouble. "Jack should be here soon."

Sam doesn't look over at him or stop walking, just says, "Yup," and refuses to look at her watch.

They make it maybe another ten steps before Daniel tries again. "It's been a while."

"So it has," she agrees, perfectly matching his mild tone as if they are discussing nothing more interesting than the weather.

If three weeks, four days, and a certain amount of hours she refuses to admit she knows even inside the privacy of her own mind can be described as 'a while'. Of course, it's been even longer than that since he was last on base. And something upward of nine months since they both were at the SGC at the same time.

Not that she's thought about it.

Next to her, she knows Daniel is grinning without even looking. Bastard.

"It'll be nice to see him again," Daniel says.

Sam makes a non-committal sound of agreement and glances up at the dormant alarms. It's probably messed up that she's hoping for an emergency to save her right now. Just a little one?

Teal'c rounds the corner to join them, and Sam smiles up at him with relief. Her savior.

Teal'c turns to her, head tilted slightly to one side in a way that only someone who knows him well can tell is far from innocent. "I believe O'Neill should arrive soon."

Sam closes her eyes. Oh for—.

"It's been a while," Daniel says again like he's reading off a script.

"Indeed it has," Teal'c agrees.

Sam can't decide if she wants to cry or yell. Coming to a stop, she waits until they stop as well, turning back to look at her like they have no idea what's wrong. "Just so you know," she says, "I hate you both very, very much."

Daniel tries to look affronted, but Teal'c doesn't even bother, his lips half-curving in a self-satisfied smile. He glances sideways at Daniel. "One can only hope that O'Neill's visit will improve Colonel Carter's mood."

"She has been cranky lately," Daniel agrees.

Doomed. She is so completely doomed. Shoving past them, she ducks into the briefing room like it's a safe haven. She gets at least five minutes of peace, Teal'c and Daniel sitting across from her in merciful silence as if her glares have no effect on them.

Only then Cam arrives, dropping down into the open chair next to her.

"Hey," he asks, looking around at them, his face completely guileless. "When's General O'Neill supposed to get here?"

Sam drops her head into her hands.

Sam manages to make it through the morning briefing and the first half of lunch without killing anyone. Mostly because she knows as much fun as Daniel and Teal'c are having teasing her, they will never take it too far. They respect her privacy about as much as they respect their right to razz her obliquely to their heart's content. Not that the chance of maiming isn't still a near thing. Daniel and Teal'c are lucky she can't actually kill with just her brain. Yet.

Sure today is a bit of a first: the first time Jack and Sam have been together at the SGC since they started seeing each other. The first time either Teal'c or Daniel have been with both of them in the same room at the same time. Neither of these are facts she really needs to be reminded of, so she does her best to ignore the completely unsubtle glances Daniel and Teal'c keep sending her.

Only Cam seems more interested in his meal than the byplay.

When Jack finally appears, she's amused to see that he's wearing green BDUs perfectly matching theirs and she has the insane, fleeting thought that he called Daniel this morning to make sure he'd have the right color on.

"Hey, guys," he says and it's almost as if he just walked in on any ordinary day and not like it's been long months since he's been on base.

Cam quickly pushes to his feet, Sam belatedly following a moment later, but Jack is already waving them back down, peering around the room as if scared to be spotted by anyone else. "Keep your seats, for God's sake," he says. "Are you trying to break my cover?"

"I'm pretty sure most people have figured out you're a general, Jack," Daniel mock whispers. "I think the whole 'being in charge here for over a year' thing gave it away."

Jack gifts him with a particularly virulent glare. "You have no idea what it's like, people popping up out of their seats all the time, almost taking each others' eyes out with salutes flying here, there, and everywhere. It's exhausting."

With that, Jack snags a chair from a neighboring table and plops down between Teal'c and Daniel as if very put out.

Sam finds herself thinking how cute he is when he pouts, but Teal'c and Daniel are sharing an amused glance so she quickly focuses on her mashed potatoes because appearing overly intent on her meal might just be safer in the long run.

"So, it's been a while," Jack says. "How are you all doing?"

Feeling everyone's eyes on her, Sam looks up. "Good," she says when no one else does. She waves her fork at him. "You know how it is…same old, same old."

"Yes, I can see that," he says, looking around the table, his eyes lingering on Sam's cheek just a moment too long before moving on to Teal'c. "You're looking a little beat up."

It's been a rough few weeks—Cam being accused of murder, SG-1 almost getting punked by an alternative version of themselves, Teal'c captured by Baal, and the loss of Prometheus. And most recently, a bit too much time spent in the hands of the Lucian Alliance and a narrow escape much closer than she likes to admit.

So, yeah, they are all a little beat up, all things told.

"We will recover," Teal'c says.

Jack pats him on the shoulder. "Yes, I'm sure you will." To anyone who didn't know him well, it might have seemed like a careless gesture, but Sam recognizes the relief in it.

In turn, Teal'c takes a moment to look Jack over, carefully and deliberately from head to toe. "You appear to be in remarkably good health, O'Neill," he observes with a speculative gleam in his eye that has Sam working really hard not to cover her face with her hands.

Across from her, Daniel is smirking at his food. Sam kicks him in the ankle, just on principle. She really doesn't need this sort of third grade crap in her life right now.

Cam's just looking around, aware that he's missing something, but clueless as to what. Thank God for small favors, Sam thinks.

Jack, meanwhile, has narrowed his eyes at Teal'c, but also makes a big show of flexing his arm, patting his bicep. "Well, you know, I've been lifting weights."

Teal'c nods sagely. "This increased physical activity appears to agree with you."

Daniel chokes on his drink, sputtering when Cam helpfully slaps him on the back.

"You alright, man?"

Daniel nods, flashing a thumbs up. "Wrong pipe," he gasps.

Oh, for God's sake.

Jack ignores the Three Stooges routine that has suddenly taken up residence at their table, clearly deciding to push the conversation in a new, safer direction.

"So," he says. "Space corn? That's new."

She's probably over compensating, but Sam grabs the opening to blather on about the chemical properties of the addictive corn until even Teal'c begins to look contrite.

Jack just sort of stares at her, one hand propping up his chin and for some reason it makes her skin feel warm. She stops talking abruptly and goes back to eating her mashed potatoes.

Daniel is smirking again.

Jack stretches his arms behind his head, and it's possible he's looking a little pleased with himself. "Man, I miss the old days when all we had to worry about were megalomaniacs with poor fashion sense and chicks with bad breath."

Cam perks up and says, "Hathor, right? She drugged you all with some freaky-deaky pheromone."

"Yes," Daniel says, looking pained. "Do bring that up as much as possible."

Cam waves away his concern. "Oh, come on! You kicked her ass in the end." He nods his head at Jack. "Or at least General O'Neill did."

By now Jack is openly staring at Cam, looking a little scared. He leans in towards Daniel and in a stage whisper says, "Is he always like this?"

"Usually he's worse," Daniel admits.

Cam crosses his arms with a frown. "So I read up on your missions, what's so wrong with that?"

Jack isn't buying it. "Even I don't remember half of those missions, and I was on them."

Before she can think better of it, Sam makes a sound of disbelief at his typical attempt to appear hapless. "Oh, please."

Jack shoots her a look of warning. Whoops. Mmmm. Mashed potatoes.

It's possible that seeing him here in her daily life again is making her a little giddier than appropriate, but she can't bring herself to care.

"He may just be creepier than Jonas," Jack decides, leaning across to steal something from her plate.

"You have no idea, sir," she says, fending him off with her fork.

"Sam!" Cam protests, punching her playfully on the arm. "Have a little team loyalty!"

Sam smiles at him. "Sorry, Cam. I just call it like I see it," she teases.

Cam leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. "This is because of the whole Mary Poppins thing, isn't it?"

Teal'c slides Cam a look. "I told you it was unwise to draw comparisons between Colonel Carter and fairytale characters."

Daniel nods in agreement. "I'd be really careful opening your locker for a while."

Sam smirks. "He's not wrong."

"Let me get this straight," Jack says, looking across at her. "Mitchell called you Mary Poppins?"

"Yes," Sam draws out, not quite sure where he's going with this.

"I see," he says with an innocent shrug that is anything but. Leaning into Teal'c, he whispers just loud enough for them all to clearly hear. "So, tell me. Exactly how many of Mitchell's bruises are really from Carter?"

"Whoops," Daniel says. "Secret's out."

Cam rolls his eyes. "Oh, ha ha. Very funny."

Teal'c smirks. "Perhaps it would be wise to increase the frequency of our sparring practice, Colonel Mitchell, should you forget this rule again in the future."

"Right," Cam says, pushing to his feet and grabbing his tray. "Like a little sparring practice is gonna save me if Sam decides to kick my ass."

Sam smiles sweetly up at him, holding out her own tray towards him. "Who, me?" she says, blinking up at him with her best innocent expression.

Cam eyes her, mumbling something under his breath about getting no respect, but still takes her tray to clear away with his own.

"Hey, Cam," Daniel calls out as Cam moves away from the table. "Aren't you going to take mine too?"

Cam flashes a rude gesture back over his shoulder that Sam is pretty sure his grandmother would never approve of. Laughing, she turns back to find Jack watching her with an expression on his face that she can't quite define. He catches her eye and quickly covers with a smile.

"So," he says, slapping his hands on the table and pushing to his feet. "We going to do this meeting thing some time today or what? I'm a busy, important man, remember."

Sam somehow manages not to roll her eyes, even if Daniel doesn't. They share a wry smile across the table.

"Of course, sir," she says, getting up from the table and following him to the door as the others clear their trays.

Jack has his hands shoved in his pockets, but as they step out into the hall to wait, he nudges her with his elbow like a schoolboy trying to catch her attention.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey," she echoes, really hoping the stupid grin on her face isn't quite as big as it feels.

Daniel appears, looking between them and shaking his head.

Sam glares back at Daniel, as if daring him to say something. It's possible she's being a tad too defensive, but it's not like they are doing anything. They're just standing here!

Daniel smiles like can read her thoughts and heads down the hall with Teal'c and Cam, leaving her to follow with Jack. She spends a moment making sure there is a perfectly proper amount of space between them as they walk.

"So, Mitchell," Jack says, apparently deciding to ignore her little jig of insanity. "You're the one who was so set on getting the old gang back together."

Cam throws a look back over his shoulder, still looking a little beleaguered. "Yes, sir."

Jack gives him a knowing look. "Beginning to regret that now, huh."

Cam grins. "Not even a little."

"Yeah," Jack says. "That's what I thought."

To Sam's ears, he sounds a bit forlorn. When they all squeeze in together in the elevator, she uses it as an excuse to let her hand accidentally brush against his.

There's a bit of musical chairs as they all enter the briefing room, Jack refusing to take Hank's seat.

"I never liked that chair," Jack says, daring Hank to roll his eyes, but Hank only shrugs and says, "Yes, sir," in a way Jack knows is secretly really, really insubordinate.

He's probably supposed to take the seat at the other end of the table—the two generals staring down the length of the table at each other like some crusty pair playing lords of the manor—but all Jack can think of is Kinsey in that seat, one man in a long succession of pain in the ass interlopers. That is never going to be Jack.

Meanwhile, SG-1 has settled around the table, just like old times, only Cam has paused half-lowered into a chair between Landry and Carter, popping back out of it with a wave of his hand at Jack before settling on the other side of Carter.

Jack wonders if the guy has some secret seating chart hidden away between the pages of his favorite SG-1 mission reports.

"Okay," Hank says as everyone finally finds a seat. "We are all here, of course, to brief General O'Neill on the latest developments with the Ori." He slides a file across to Jack.

Jack nods, flipping open the folder, but honestly he's paying more attention to SG-1 as they switch into briefing mode around him. He watches they way the information unfolds, bouncing between all four of them. Despite being a relatively new team with a new commander, there's already a pattern at this table, between Landry and the team, the conversation seeming to hit a series of beats, the easy rhythm of people used to one another.

On paper, Jack knows SG-1 doesn't really make a lot of sense. It's unorthodox to say the least, a team comprised of two Lt. Colonels, an unranked alien warrior, and an archeologist.

Luckily, Jack doesn't really feel the need to justify it. He knows what looks good on paper often has little to do with what actually works, so he's willing to give them a lot of leeway. That being said, their last few missions have given Jack more than enough reason to wonder if maybe he'd made a mistake. Maybe it was just a rough patch and a few stupid decisions, but maybe it was more. And that's really why he made this trip, came all this way for a meeting that could just have easily have been accomplished by conference call. He needs to make sure SG-1 is working, that the strange structure isn't putting them all at risk—the team or the planet. He needs to see it for himself.

Their antics in the commissary were a bit of a relief on the surface. It's good to see that the weight of this war and recent losses isn't hamstringing their confidence or their ability to relate to each other. Their spirits are definitely up. Frankly, Jack can't quite remember the last time he saw Carter that…light, at least in a professional sense.

On the other hand, that team dynamic is also worrisome, all that ease and irreverence. It brings up questions of ironclad chain of command and their ability to function as a cohesive unit in tense situations. Levity can only get you so far without the underpinnings of competence and unity.

Here in the briefing room though, that worry is being proved mostly groundless. It's a subtle, but vital shift as they get down to business, each slipping seamlessly into their roles. Daniel is providing insight into the philosophical mindset of the Ori and their followers. Teal'c jumps in with strategic analysis, his comprehension of the large-scale balance of the galaxy as alliances shift and planets fall being put to good use. Carter is on point with the Ori tech bible that is being developed—everything they've learned about Ori tech so far, every device they have developed to fight them, and where they should be looking next.

As for Mitchell, well, Mitchell mostly sits back, watching his team at work. Jack knows this isn't inaction. This is Mitchell using the strengths of his team, including his own. He is the one catching the overlap, seeing the big picture, and asking the right questions,--all signs that Mitchell will eventually settle down into his position as team leader. Jack can see that despite the levity that carries over into this room, the others do defer to Mitchell. Not quite seamless yet, but enough for Jack to be assured that they are moving in the right direction, that they do all belong together.

They aren't a mistake, on or off paper.

It's reassuring and exactly what he needed to see. Not that there isn't something still nagging at the back of Jack's mind as he watches them. But it's not that instinct of impending doom, more like something obvious, but harmless that he's missing, so he ignores it for now.

"Which bring us to Baal," Landry says as the discussion of the Ori wraps up.

"Yes. Baal," Jack drawls, tension building in his back just at the sound of the damn name. "How is ole Bocce these days?"

He knows he's probably pretty damn transparent to his team, but that doesn't stop him from making the asinine quips because the only other option is allowing Baal to get to him, to allow himself to feel the panic he refuses to acknowledge is still lodged somewhere even all these years later. To acknowledge the fact that he hates, with every fiber of his being, that Baal is once again stirring the pot instead of being long dead as he deserves to be.

The fact that it's Carter out there in his line of fire.

Jack's hand clenches around his pen. Clearing his throat, he keeps his voice light as possible. "I suppose it's too much to hope that he was killed when his ship exploded."

Landry shakes his head. "We've received word of more Stargates disappearing, so it seems rather likely that he managed to escape."

Jack nods. Baal was like a goddamned cockroach that way. "Any idea why he's stealing Stargates?"

Daniel and Mitchell jump in, the attention successfully redirected off Jack, but he can still feel Carter watching him, and here's that damn nagging feeling again.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Carter's hand twitch, like she wants to reach out and touch him, but at the last second tries to take it back, ending up looking awkward and nervous, and he's pretty sure that's not just due to her teammates' good-natured razzing.

Her post-return to SGC freak out is still fresh enough in his mind that he's hyper aware of what being together here, of all places, means. Knows it may not be as simple as they hope. But only a few weeks before she insinuated herself into Jack's life with barely a ripple. It had happened with such ease that it doesn't really strike him until now, until he watches her be so open with her team, only to turn to him with guarded eyes and truncated gestures.

It's harder to think of you this way here. Like it still feels wrong.

It bothers him more than it should, to hear her call him 'sir' and 'General', to watch her wear that old mask again, no matter how much he understands the necessity of it. He knows how insidious rumors can be, and they aren't people into public displays to begin with, but that doesn't stop the beat of disappointment he feels at the loss of ease they'd had so recently. He never thought what a boon DC might be for them—a new location, somewhere they could be anonymous. Even Nevada had been like that to a degree. But here? The SGC?

Carter shifts next to him, her pencil tapping against the table. He glances over at her and she tilts her head to one side, a question there. Jack gives her a tight-lipped smiled before returning his attention to Daniel.

He suspects he hasn't exactly been convincing, but it's not like she can do anything about it. Soon enough it's her turn to speak, her concentration once more on the topic at hand.

Jack focuses in on her words and tries to forget things like Carter's nervousness and her easy laughter in the commissary.

It almost works.

"So, Sam's house at seven?" Daniel asks as they all escape out of the briefing room into the hall.

"Yup," Carter says. "You boys are on food detail though."

"What, you're not cooking for us?" Daniel asks, voice full of fake innocence.

Carter casually clips Daniel's back heel, just enough to make him trip over his own foot and stumble. Jack likes to think she learned this childish form of punishment from him.

Daniel glares back at her and she raises an unrepentant eyebrow in return. "Sorry, but it sounded an awful lot like you were disparaging my culinary skills."

"He would never be so foolish," Teal'c chimes in. "Especially after what occurred last time."

"Good point," Daniel agrees. "So what kind of food do we want?"

"I believe it is my turn to choose the establishment," Teal'c says.

Mitchell jumps in. "Just so long as you don't pick Chevy's yet again."

The conversation spirals into an argument about the relative merits of Tex Mex versus authentic Mexican food and Jack just lets it wash over him. He's trying to summon his boisterous mood from the commissary earlier, but he just can't seem to find it.

"Does that sound good, Jack?"

Jack looks up to find all four looking at him like he should know what the heck they are talking about. "Yeah, sure," he bluffs, smiling just a moment too late to judge from the look Carter sends him.

If any of the others notice, they don't say anything, once more heading down the hallway debating what sounds like the quickest, most efficient route to whatever restaurant they've decided on.

Carter doesn't follow though, her hand on Jack's arm holding him in place. Considering how consciously hands off they've been, he's surprised by it. When Daniel looks back to see why they've fallen behind, she says, "We'll catch up with you guys."

Daniel opens his mouth like he's going to say something flippant, razz them yet again, only to dart a glance at Carter's face and obviously change his mind. "Sure," he says. "See you later."

"Carter?" Jack asks as the others disappear around the corner.

She's got that 'I'm going to save this planet from certain doom if it's the last thing I ever do' look on her face, which really confuses Jack as last time he checked Earth wasn't in any more imminent danger than usual. Still holding on to his arm, she pulls him towards a door about halfway down the hall.

"Storage closet?" he asks. "Are you dire need of some pens, Carter?"

She doesn't bother answering, just glances both ways down the hall before opening the door and pushing him inside. He decides not to question it, as he's pretty sure the expression on her face doesn't bode well to begin with. Then again, he's always been an optimist, and maybe this is heading somewhere else entirely and the scary look on her face is just a beard.

"Ah," Jack says, pulling her into his arms as soon as the door shuts behind them. "Fantasy number three, how I feared we would never get the chance."

Carter seems momentarily thrown, allowing him to draw her in close. "Number three?"

Jack shrugs. "What can I say? It's an early one."

The stubborn gleam in her eye has been replaced with that irrepressible mirth he's so damn fond of. She leans into him. "Dare I ask what one and two are?"

He smirks. "Ask me later." His fingers brush right below the bruise on her cheek. "You're sure you're okay?"

She smiles, wrapping her hand around his. "I'm fine. They barely touched me." Her head tilts slightly to the side. "Mostly because they were too busy being distracted by Cam's inability to keep his mouth shut. They spent most of their time on him. Though I imagine that was the point. Remind you of anyone we know?"

Jack frowns at her, not particularly caring for the comparison, and here comes that special Carter look again.

"What's going on?" she asks.

"What do you mean?"

She looks like she's trying to figure out if he's being deliberately obtuse or not. "You've been sort of…twitchy since the meeting started."

"Twitchy?" he protests, drawing himself to his full height. Air Force Generals do not get twitchy, he's certain of it.

Carter raises an eyebrow. "Would you prefer spastic?"

Oh, the humanity.

Jack closes his eyes. "This is not at all how I imagined being locked up in a storage closet with you would be like."

"Is it Baal?" she asks, her voice painfully soft and hesitant, like she's scared she's crossing some line she has no business crossing. Like she's bracing herself to get shut down on.

Made only worse by the fact that he automatically tenses and pulls back, the way a million asinine remarks rise in his brain to deflect, deflect, deflect, because he has no intention of talking about this with her, well, ever. He paces away from her, beginning to feel a little queasy.

"It's not Baal," he insists. He can handle Baal, just like he always has.

"Then what?"

As always when Jack finds his back against a wall, his first instinct is to push back and damn is it hard to bite that back. "Carter," he complains.

"Jack," is all she says, insistent enough to let him know this matters to her.


"Okay, okay," he says, grabbing onto the first excuse he can think of. "It's just a little weird, seeing you with them. That's all."

"Them?" she asks.

"SG-1," he clarifies. "You're…different."

"I am?"

If she's just going to repeat everything he says back in the form of a question, this is going to be a long, endless conversation. "Carter."

"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm just not sure what you mean. Things with Daniel and Teal'c are pretty much what they've always been."

"Yeah," Jack replies without thinking, the obvious root of his daylong annoyance finally making itself pretty clear. Shit.

Carter seems to get it too, because she's beginning to look annoyed. "So this is about Cam."

Why is it that floors never open up and swallow you whole when you need them to? That kind of crap only ever happens to Daniel. Jack is seriously beginning to regret insisting on this whole honesty thing in the first place. One would think the sex would be enough for him.


"Maybe," Jack hedges, even though he knows it's true. Seeing Carter and Mitchell today, their rapport, something about it had just driven him nuts, like little splinters shoved up under his nails. Not that he has any intention of admitting that if he can at all help it. Time to deflect. "He did almost get my favorite team killed, if you hadn't noticed."

Carter isn't buying it. "No, I don't think this has anything to do with the mission," she says, crossing her arms over her chest as if analyzing him like some damn specimen in a Petri dish. The conclusion she reaches apparently isn't one that she likes, because her shoulders slump slightly, her voice lowering. "You can't possibly think-."

"No," Jack interjects before she can actually say the words, feeling like the worst kind of creep. "Don't even finish that sentence, Carter."

Of all the crap she's had to put up with because of him, the endless speculation about Carter and any male commander ensured by their relationship, legal or not, is the one that pisses him off the most, mainly because he knows it bugs her, even if she pretends not to care.

"I'd never…shit. No," he says, reaching for her, relieved when she doesn't pull away, when she leans into his embrace. Now there is no question of not telling her, not if this is the alternative she's going to be chewing on.

He wonders if it's too late to claim this is all about Baal.

Taking a deep breath, he tries his best to put the confusing tangle in his mind into words. "I guess…watching you with him just made me realize that you were never that open with me, not ever. Hell, even now in some ways. And I just… It looks so easy."

Her hand picks at his shirt, and when she speaks she doesn't sound pissed, just thoughtful. "You know why."

"Yeah," Jack says, lowering his face to her hair. She's never had to worry about anything with Mitchell, how it might appear to someone else, because they're equals and friends first. They, on the other hand, never had that. Not even in the beginning. He's always known remnants of their old power structure would be yet another hurdle to deal with if they ever tried this. Doesn't mean he has to like it.

"This isn't really about Cam though, is it?" she asks.

Jack's not sure what she's talking about, to be honest. Mitchell is the one who's been annoying the hell out of him all day, after all. "What do you mean?"

She peers up at him. "If I really wanted easy, I had the chance."

Oh, great. Just what this already painful conversation needs: the ghost of ex-fiancés. But, God, maybe she's right. He hates the idea that she might regret this.

When he doesn't respond, she leans back to look at him. "Obviously I prefer complex, and difficult, and aggravating--."

"Hey," Jack protests. "Isn't this the part where you make me feel better, not worse?"

She ignores him. "--and annoying, and sometimes childish--." He glares at her and she has the gall to smile back at him. She reaches up for his collar, pulling him closer, her voice dropping. "But also exciting, and pretty damn spectacular, and completely worth it."

Wow. Now that he did not expect.

"Spectacular, huh?" he says, waggling his eyebrows.

"Shut up," she says, lifting up to kiss him.

Jack is so not going to argue with that, even if the kiss is far too short out of respect for their surroundings. She gives him a little apologetic smile with just an edge of promise for later when she steps back away from him. Suddenly a long evening spent with SG-1 is not looking quite so enjoyable.

"Now," Carter says, straightening her sadly un-rumpled uniform. "Are you ready to go back out there and not scare the crap out of Cam anymore?"

Jack sighs. "If he scares that easily…"

She thumps him on the arm, turning away to open the door.

Jack doesn't let her get too far, grabbing her and pulling her back because despite the smile on her face, there's still something bugging him about all of this.

She resists, rolling her eyes at him. "We don't have time for fantasy number three."

"I know," he says, shaking his head and wrapping his arms around her waist. "It's not that."

Of course, now that he has her here, he's not quite so sure what to say. He doesn't talk about this stuff a lot, or at all, to be honest. He much prefers to let his actions speak for him. But if there is any excuse for his behavior today...

"Jack?" she asks, beginning to look worried again.

Blowing out a breath, he lets out an internal Geronimo and takes the plunge. "It's just… If I have maybe been a tad twitchy, you know it's just because I'm nuts about you, right?"

She's back to staring at him again, though he's not so clear on her expression this time. If he had to guess, he'd say something between 'deer caught in the headlights' and 'wondering if he's been taken over by aliens'. Neither of which are really the reaction he was going for. So much for Plan A.

He weighs the risk of an all out retreat versus just brazening ahead. Oh, what the hell.

"Because I am," he clarifies. "All kinds of nuts."

Whatever her first expression may have been, it softens into something unguarded and slightly wrenching that makes him realize he should probably say these sorts of things more often.

"Carter?" he asks, her extended silence beginning to make him nervous.

Leaning into him, she touches his face. "Right back at ya," she says.

And that right there pretty much blows fantasy number three right out of the water.